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Hey everyone! If anyone is interested in critiquing this, I would very much appreciate it! It is not a final draft:)


The smell is what hit us first. As soon as we stepped off of the plane in Port-au-Prince, it overwhelmed us and brought tears to our eyes. A putrid fusion of grilled goat and rotting flesh, the smell delayed our other senses from taking in the scene before us. Military tanks representing many developed countries rushed through the narrow streets, and hoards of hungry locals shouting in Creole stormed the iron gates surrounding the tiny airport. We waited for over an hour for our ride to the Youth With A Mission (YWAM) center, giving us an opportunity to take in the extreme poverty amidst the crumbled concrete and chaos.


Dr. Rothacker and I went to Haiti to perform surgery, but in the third world you learn to be adaptable. We were sent to a local hospital to assist the resident orthopedic surgeon. I was astounded at the lack of sterile technique and organization in the operating suite. The nurse who administered anesthesia had a flyswatter across her lap to swish away the bugs and keep them from landing on the sterile field. Seven years of experience as a surgical technologist could not have prepared me for the conditions of a third world hospital. I loved and despised every minute of it. Unfortunately, politics kept us from doing much surgery, so we spent more time helping the medical teams at a clinic down the road. We aspirated fluid from a teenager's knee, pulled cockroaches out of children's ears, and played with a boy crippled from tuberculosis. We treated malaria at the camp and listened to nurses talk about seeing cholera at a tent city up the road.


The trip to Haiti is what motivated me to become a physician assistant. I've worked in the medical field for ten years, and spent the past seven years working as a surgical technologist in the operating room. I loved my job. However, I realized that I could do so much more if armed with knowledge and experience. Instead of standing beside the doctor, handing him the syringe and holding the knee steady, I could be the one drawing out the fluid. As a PA, I could diagnose and treat patients. Not only could I go back to Haiti, but I could volunteer at a local homeless shelter or clinic in my city. I feel trapped by my current career as a surgical technologist because we are only needed in one aspect of medicine, and must fully rely on a surgeon to treat the patient. We are of little use outside of our operating room.


After Haiti, I started noticing a lack of fulfillment regarding my patient care experience. In the operating room, a patient is only a knee to be replaced or a gall bladder to be removed. I began to resent that aspect of my job. Now I yearn to know the patient from beginning to end. I want to be part of a team that diagnoses a disease, develops a treatment plan, and says goodbye to a healed patient. I know medicine does not always work in this manner, but it would be encouraging to see a patient three months after getting a knee replacement and hear him or her say that they experience less pain. For example, we performed a hip revision on a patient several months ago that took a bad turn. Nothing went as planned, and the final result that day was dismal. As a PA I could have continued on that patient's medical journey, but I know nothing of the final result. This frustration is another factor motivating my interest in a career as a PA.


Several months after providing medical care in Haiti, I gained experience in the public health aspect of medicine on a mission trip to the bush of South Africa. The trip consisted mostly of physical labor, but in the evenings our team led "meetings" where we educated the farm workers on basic hygiene, disease, HIV/AIDS, nutrition, and child care. We discussed simple acts such as oral hygiene and the importance of incorporating vegetables into a diet. I also solemnly learned how uneducated people are about the transmission of HIV/AIDS. It was heartbreaking, yet lit a fire inside of me to educate people about the seriousness of the disease. It was in South Africa that I fell in love with public health, and the experience solidified my decision to pursue a PA career.


These experiences are the foundation of my motivation to become a physician assistant. I hope to incorporate some aspect of public health into my career. More importantly, I plan to work with the underserved in my community and volunteer whenever possible. Hopefully, I will also have many opportunities to participate in medical trips to the third world and utilize the knowledge and skills that I learned in PA school to serve. In the words of Emily Dickinson:


If I can stop one heart from breaking,

I shall not live in vain;

If I can ease one life the aching,

Or cool one pain,

Or help one fainting robin

Unto his nest again,

I shall not live in vain.

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